Petlib. (formerly emo-centric duo Pet Library) have expanded their line-up to a three piece and have become more adventurous in their songwriting. Maker is a concept album about a scientist who creates an entire universe in their own mind before positioning themselves as that environment’s higher being. The album tells of the corruption and megalomania that goes with such a position for one who was previously mortal. Within the strict narrative functions of the lyrics lies an album that makes use of a range of musical genres to good effect, to the point where the story is sometimes lost due to the rush of musicality that transcends the often seemingly obligatory tale of creation and destruction which comes off as being more whimsical than essential. Other bands in a similar vein, such as Fall of Efrafa and Archivist, have albums which are centred around precise narration but as with their work, Maker is a better musical album than it is a storytelling vehicle.

There is a sombre quality to much of the album without falling into the morose. Album opener ‘dayseven.’ is all pensive pianos, mumbled vocals and spoken-word scene setting. Halfway through the track, the piano pauses for a second and comes back in accompanied by orchestration which highlights the scope and ambition of the musicianship here. Some scratchy beats give a sense of Sigur Rós, and before you know it the track is done. It’s an interesting opening and one that will surely be enough to separate those who will ‘get’ this album and those who won’t.

‘Reflection’ comes next and falls somewhere between post-rock and post-hardcore. It’s a complete departure from the opener, showing the confidence that Petlib. have at this stage in their musical trajectory. The spoken-word vocals of the opening track are replaced with howling in the vein of bands like Botch, and there is an intensity to the track which is entirely at odds with the false sense of security that ‘dayseven.’ established. The only similarity that the two opening tracks share is a sense that they finish far too soon.

Elsewhere, the heavier tracks on the album are the strongest with the intensely taut ‘Return’, the gnarling ‘Shell’ and the frantic ‘Wounds’ being particular highlights. The strength of the album, and these songs in particular, is the band’s ability to lead the listener in one direction before switching things up entirely and delivering a musical curveball. This leaves you on your toes as a listener, and will no doubt frustrate the verse-chorus-verse bores out there as Petlib. pay little heed to the whims of the audience. Song structures morph and contort, their deviations perfectly mirroring the mindset of the protagonist of the story and the way the tale switches between the real world and the Maker’s cognitive utopia. You hear inflections of a wide range of musical influences, from Radiohead, to Converge, to Deafheaven and Explosions in the Sky, all wrapped up in one non-derivative musical power ball.

Maker has some weak points, with the superfluous ‘Disintegrate’ being the album’s low point, as the spoken-word vocal element of the song is a quasi-rap which just doesn’t sit comfortably within the parameters of the album. It seems a little bloated where everything else is as trim as can be.

This is a strange, complex album of twists and turns. Ambitious in narrative scope and musicality, no doubt Maker will divide opinion for those who listen to it. This should be seen as a good thing as there is little worse than a band spewing up vanilla fodder for the masses to stuff into their mewling, empty cores. This album is a challenge, but one which you should wholeheartedly accept.